Vintage postcard of a typical California Orchard with Pink Flowers

Vintage Postcards from California’s Central Valley

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The sun goes down long and red. All the magic names of the valley unrolled – Manteca, Madera, all the rest. Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon field; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries. I stuck my head out the window and took deep breaths of the fragrant air. It was the most beautiful of all moments.

(Jack Kerouac, On the Road)

Growing up in California’s Central Valley, it often felt as if I was in the absolute middle of nowhere. Miles of farmland surround my hometown of Manteca, California.

Vintage postcard of a California almond orchard in bloom.
Vintage postcard of a California almond orchard in bloom.

I was a bookworm when I was a kid. I spent my breaks from school with my nose in a book or roaming the Sierra Nevada Mountains with my family. As a teenager, I longed to explore the cities. I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and strike out to see the world.

Just after I graduated high school and before I left my hometown for college in Santa Barbara, I picked up a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. When I read his lines about the “magic names of the valley,” it occurred to me that perhaps I had grown up in an interesting, romantic place after all. That was when I realized how much I loved California.

Flash forward to now. Up until very recently, I was planning on leaving California and moving to Portland, Oregon. Just before the move, some pretty big changes occurred in my life and I decided to stay put. As much as I love Portland, I have to admit that I am relieved to be staying here in California.

Vintage postcard of workers picking apples in a California orchard.
Vintage postcard of workers picking apples in a California orchard.
Vintage postcard of workers picking grapes in California
Vintage postcard of workers picking grapes in California
Vintage postcard of a typical California Orchard with Pink Flowers
Vintage postcard of a typical California orchard.

I am living once again in my hometown and, much to my surprise, I have found I love it here. The big sky. The pastel, dreamy colors of the farmed fields. The golden sun on cold, rainy days. I can see the poetry described by Jack Kerouac laid out before me and I long to explore my childhood haunts with my adult camera.

What is your favorite region of California? My vote goes for the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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